Three guesses as to why (no pun intended - read on for that to make sense) I chose this one for today's post, and the first two don’t count.
Of the W5 questions, I consider ‘why’ to be the most important. It isn’t in journalism, of course, and that’s fine, but to me why is the question. Our motives inform our actions far more than the other way around, some would say entirely (I’d be more on their side), so the quest to understand the why of a choice, an action, a motive, even a resolution, can tell us far more about a given situation or ourselves than any clinical understanding of the facts; the who, what, when or how. When we understand why, we understand something at the deepest level.
I remember, when I was involved in the church, that my pastor considered this concept somewhat subversive. I had suggested that god, a truly loving and caring god, in god’s infinite wisdom and omniscience, would understand the why of us, of our actions, of our thoughts, perceptions, actions and motives, and that, if god, a truly loving and caring god, were even inclined to judge us, that god would do so based on the why regardless of the outcome of our imperfect how or when or what. Apparently that was slightly heretical on several levels and it marked the beginning of a slow exodus out of organized religion for me.
I don’t embrace atheism any more than I embrace a specific theism these days, mostly because I see the concept as, a) too unimaginative, b) contrary to my own anecdotal experience, and c) as rigid and intractable as any of the major religions themselves. I prefer to stay open to the possibilities a bit more than that. I also can’t say as there is any one belief system that presses all of my happy buttons either; I mistrust any and all institutions, for the very act of becoming an institution is a corruption of the natural state of change that marks the character of the world around us. Instead, I prefer the pick-a-part, do-it-yourself method, eclectically and optimistically assuming some truth in the blind-guys-feeling-up-an-elephant explanation for all of the similar yet different versions of faith that sprout up around the world. I assume that most (though definitely not all) seekers have and are looking for an explanation for the unexplainable, and so assume that most (though definitely not all) have caught some piece of the truth even if just by accident. I spend my time sorting through the Olympic-sized pools of murky bathwater looking for whatever pieces of the baby I can find. And that works for me.
This time of year traditionally involves an often comical and almost always ironic tradition of making resolutions that are designed to improve our lives in some way through the next year, sort of a pin the tail on the donkey kind of goal setting and self-improvement. I’ve never been a big fan, admittedly because I have a very, very mediocre success rate at keeping to resolutions. And I’m okay with that too. I’ve learned (and am learning) that my best goals are my simplest ones and that, converse to traditional thinking, they work best when set with very little structure but extremely profound intent. I focus first on the why, then the what, and finally the how and when. (I’ve learned to never try to include any who’s but me in any of my goals – it leaves me wiggle room, and I apparently need wiggle room.) By focusing first on the why of a thing I tend to ensure that if I choose to do something, it will be for the right reasons. I may fail utterly at the what, how and when, but I will know going in that my why was pristine. For me, that self-trust is intrinsic to everything else.
So my resolution is the same one as last year: To continue my search for a perpetually more profound understanding of why.
I’m not suggesting you do the same, but if you like try asking yourself why you are making the resolutions you are making. See if you’re happy with your reasons, if they are the kinds of reasons that make the sacrifices worthwhile making. See if this tiny exercise changes your understanding of the choices you are making.